David hadn’t had time to catch his breath since his ordeal with Absalom and he was already dealing with another uprising where “the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri” (II Samuel 20:2a, NLT). Ticked off because only half of Israel’s men got to escort the king on his way back to Jerusalem while the whole army of Judah had the honor, Sheba played on their wounded spirits and enticed them away from David.
Folks, there’s a world of lessons in this. Just because things aren’t going your way isn’t necessarily the time to switch loyalties. There is no worse time to make a decision than when you’re emotionally distraught. Whenever possible, decisions should be made after things cool down, not in the heat of the moment.
Unlike the men of Israel, “the men of Judah stayed with their king,” (II Samuel 20:2b), showing loyalty. David was smart enough to know, as I said yesterday, that he had to follow Barney Fife’s advice and nip this revolt in the bud before it had time to fester into an all-out war.
He began preparations by ordering Amasa, who had served as Absalom’s military leader, to “Mobilize the army of Judah within three days, and report back” (II Samuel 20:4a). But Amasa didn’t get the job done. Either he was incompetent, which is highly unlikely, or he was intentionally – and traitorously – dawdling around.
So “David said to Abishai, ‘Sheba son of Bicri is going to hurt us more than Absalom did. Quick, take my troops and chase after him before he gets into a fortified town where we can’t reach him’” (II Samuel 20:6).
“Abishai and Joab, together with the king’s bodyguard and all the mighty warriors, set out from Jerusalem to go after Sheba. As they arrived at the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa met them. Joab was wearing his military tunic with a dagger strapped to his belt. As he stepped forward to greet Amasa, he slipped the dagger from its sheath” (II Samuel 20:7-8).
“‘How are you, my cousin?’ Joab said and took him by the beard with his right hand as though to kiss him” (II Samuel 20:9). This was a customary greeting in those days. Amasa was completely thrown off guard.
“Amasa didn’t notice the dagger in his left hand, and Joab stabbed him in the stomach with it so that his insides gushed out onto the ground. Joab did not need to strike again, and Amasa soon died. Joab and his brother Abishai left him lying there and continued after Sheba” (II Samuel 20:10).
“One of Joab’s young men shouted to Amasa’s troops, ‘If you are for Joab and David, come and follow Joab.’ But Amasa lay in his blood in the middle of the road, and Joab’s man saw that everyone was stopping to stare at him. So he pulled him off the road into a field and threw a cloak over him. With Amasa’s body out of the way, everyone went on with Joab to capture Sheba son of Bicri” (II Samuel 20:11-13).
Most likely Amasa was disemboweled but still in the throes of death. For men accustomed to battle to shy away from the sight, it had to have been horrendous. It was necessary to remove Amasa from view to motivate the men to continue onward.
Sheba may have run, but he couldn’t hide. His rebellion against God’s anointed one was going to cost him dearly. No one ever has or ever will rebel against God and get away with it.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates